Fires in Oregon draw resources from California and evacuate residents

The Lookout Fire just north of McKenzie Bridge had burned 2,720 acres by Tuesday and was at zero percent containment. At an online briefing, Northwest Team 6 IC Tyson Albrecht said they are working with crews and aircraft to build line along a logging road. As of August 16, the fire was at 3,710 acres. KEZI-TV reported that the small mountain communities along the McKenzie River are struggling with more of the Lookout Fire’s smoke drifting across the region.

Lookout Fire at night
Lookout Fire at night August 13, inciweb photo

Smoke grounded aircraft yesterday and hotshots and structural strike teams from out of the area worked on protecting houses and powerlines. Doug Epperson with IMT 6 said they’re trying to keep the highway open for as long as possible.

“They started last night with some back burning that will continue today to remove fuels between where the fire is,” Epperson said. “We are doing everything so we can keep that highway open … our goal is to not have to close it.”

Around 400 personnel are working on the fire, with another 60 to 80 personnel joining each day.

smoke visible from Takatee Golf Course
Smoke visible from Tokatee Golf Course on August 13, inciweb photo

The fire grew quickly on Sunday, according to an OPB report, and prompted evacuations for residents north of Highway 126 near McKenzie Bridge.

There is a Red Cross shelter at Lowell High School; the IMT has scheduled a community meeting Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at McKenzie High School in Vida.

Also east of Eugene, the Bedrock Fire on Monday was shaded by heavy smoke, lowering temperatures slightly and moderating fire behavior. Helicopters on the Bedrock were also grounded.

The Bedrock Fire is at 26,154 acres with about 20 percent containment. Crews have been holding the fire within containment lines on the northern, eastern, and southern portions of the fire, which has nearly 1100 personnel assigned. The Oregon State Fire Marshal’s Office has assigned 8 task forces for interface structural protection, and OSFM resources were joined by a California Office of Emergency Services (Cal-OES) task force yesterday. They’re doing surface prep, structure triage, and overnight patrols. Crews also worked on sprinkler installations and vegetation clearing on the HJ Andrews Experimental Forest compound.

Evacuation Centers: There is an evacuation center for people and small pets at Lowell High School for evacuees from both the Bedrock and Lookout fires. A large animal shelter is setting up at the Lane County Fairgrounds in Eugene.

There is a current Level 3 (GO!) evacuation ordered for:

        • Taylor Road
        • North Bank Road
        • Areas north of Hwy 126 between Blue River Reservoir Road and Drury Lane
        • Mona Campground
        • Lookout Campground
        • HJ Andrews Experimental Forest headquarters

Firefighters are building line along the western edge of the fire, clearing and improving roads, and putting in dozer line. KPIC-TV reported that on Tuesday, firefighters were defending homes in Big Fall Creek.

sawyer on the Bedrock
Sawyer on the Bedrock Fire, inciweb photo

The fire started near Bedrock Campground on the Middle Fork Ranger District of the Willamette NF on July 22. Unusually dry fuels, steep slopes, and gusty winds contributed to rapid fire growth.

Northwest IMT 13 assumed management on July 25. On August 6, Northwest IMT 12 transitioned in, then on August 7 the IMT 12 also took over management of the Salmon Fire near Oakridge.

Oregon fires 0816
Oregon fires 0816

The IMT has scheduled a community meeting for the Bedrock and Salmon Fires tomorrow, August 17 at 7:30 p.m. at the Pleasant Hill School Community Center.

Night burn on the Bedrock
Firefighters on a tactical firing operation at night. Inciweb photo. They are watching for spot fires across the fireline.

The Salmon Fire is just 135 acres and about 80 percent contained. Firefighters are patrolling the perimeter and the incident’s recently shown minimal fire behavior. Resources include 3 engines, 1 crew, 1 watertender, and aircraft shared from the Bedrock Fire.

UPDATE — ROAD CLOSURE: Meanwhile, part of Hwy 199 south of Cave Junction is closed; CALTRANS has closed U.S. 199 at the Oregon-California border.

Hwy 199 closure
Hwy 199 closure south of Cave Junction. Check for updates at

According to Oregon DOT, the closure is in response to wildfire activity in the area, and the estimated duration of the closure is unknown. No local detours are available.

The Head Fire on the Klamath National Forest is one of a couple dozen in the area recently ignited by lightning. “This has been a fire that has moved extremely quickly,” Forest Supervisor Rachel Smith told The Associated Press. “Just in a matter of a couple of minutes yesterday afternoon the fire grew from just 50 acres to nearly 1,500 acres.”

Direction Impacted: Both
Comments: Lone Mountain Rd is CLOSED to all but local traffic from US 199 to the California border because of a wildfire in the area.
Do not use Lone Mountain Rd as a detour for the US 199 closure.
Agency: Josephine County
Public Contact: Brent Atkinson  (503) 986-3977